Casino firms vetted over criminal links

2/27/2002 ( THE new Macau casino operators will have to convince authorities in the United States that their local partners are free of any criminal links or face the loss of their licences in Las Vegas, a top security expert said yesterday.

For this reason, Las Vegas Sands, the driving force in the Galaxy Casino’s group, and Wynn Resorts (Macau) are expected to take pains to ensure their partners are squeaky-clean.

The Nevada Gaming Commission, which regulates the casino industry in Vegas, and can withdraw licences or impose sanctions if its strict code of practice is broken. The code forbids consortium members or staff from having any connections with underworld syndicates.

“If somebody complains to the Nevada Gaming Commission that these US companies have links to the underworld, then they could lose their licences in Nevada,” the security expert said. “They will have to demonstrate to the Nevada commission that they have done their due diligence, and can put their hand on their heart and tell the licensing authority in Nevada that there is no underworld involvement in their Macau operations.”

Galaxy Casinos and Wynn Resorts (Macau) won two of the three new licences. The other went to an offshoot of Stanley Ho’s Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM).

The key player in Galaxy is the Las Vegas Sands, headed by casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. His casino in the Nevada desert is the luxurious Venetian complex with an indoor waterway modelled on the Grand Canal in Venice and a Renaissance-style interior. Galaxy plans to build a$7.8 billion mini Venetian in Macau. The complex will have a 500-suite hotel, a convention centre, restaurants and a shopping mall. The centrepiece will be Venetian gondolas on a canal.

To turn this vision into reality, Las Vegas Sands is reported to have linked-up with Hong Kong property tycoon Lui Che-woo and Macau businessmen Pedro Ho On-chu. Wynn Resorts (Macau) has a similarly cosmopolitan make-up. Its bid was headed by Steve Wynn, the legendary Las Vegas casino entrepreneur. He built the 3,000-room Mirage and the US$1.6 billion (HK$12.48 billion) Bellagio complex.

Wynn’s partners are reported to include Macau businessman Wong Chi-seng and Marc Schorr, a partner for 20 years and president of the Mirage Casino in Vegas. He was also trying to entice Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Alan Zeman to invest in the Macau project, which is rumoured to be similar to the Bellagio hotel-casino.